When the Bears decision makers woke up this morning (if they even went to sleep) they had to have a Cat ate the canary grin on their faces. The value the Bears got with their picks was above the grade of where they picked the players they picked at for most positions if not all. It didn’t stop when the draft ended either. It continued into the free agency portion of the college draft as well. You can tell the Bears are a free agent destination as Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have been talking about throughout this off-season. Some of the very best available when the smoke cleared after the draft ended immediately signed with the Bears. The Bears signed many players with draftable grades and in the case of Emmanuel Hall a late 3rd early 4th round grade by most draft experts and analysts.
The second thing that stands out to me other than the value they got is the fact they added a ton of dangerous pieces to their offense. The third thing I noticed was that the Bears did not draft need or target a specific player other than the trade up for David Montgomery of course. This was blatantly obvious when the Bears doubled up at Running Back and Cornerback. As an analyst this is a respected tactic as it completely eliminates the risk of reaching too high for a draft pick. Staying true to your board is the way to stock up a first rate roster from top to bottom. That said I do feel the Bears did lose some value with the Montgomery trade. I’ll get into it in greater detail in my Montgomery analysis which is coming up right now.
73rd Overall – David Montgomery RB Iowa State: (B-) Look, as a player I love Montgomery. He’s got great football and personal character. He’s got great hands, can run routes, block, He’s smart, a good teammate, really wanted to be a Bear and they got him at better than expected value. Even among the biggest of his detractor’s he was in the top 50 on most draft media experts big boards. However, I just can’t get over the loss of that value by swapping their 5th pick with a 6th round compensatory pick and next years 4th. Especially with so many Running Backs still on the board that fit the Bears profile. As a rule I don’t believe it’s good business to trade up for a RB. They last for a short period of time and the position is fungible. Plus, with Montgomery I don’t see him as a special talent. My other issue is the Bears run a committee type rotation and have so many RB’s now. You won’t get the same value as you would if he was a bell cow back.
That said, I believe he will be a very good player for the Bears and he is an improvement from Howard. His feet are quicker which will help him avoid some of those losses of yardage in the backfield Howard had way too much of last season. While not a burner he is quick. He’ll get caught from behind and won’t take many to the house but his quickness and vision are elite as is his contact balance so he’ll create at the line of scrimmage to get to the second level. He’s also pretty powerful and will win on most short yardage and goal-line situations. He also is a more fluid athlete than Howard is which makes him a better route runner and able to contort to off target throws. Something Howard could not do. He is advanced in pass pro coming out of college so you won’t lose much there with Howard gone who himself was very good in pass pro. This gets a better than average grade from me because it is an upgrade, was above average value by 30 plus slots and he fits in with the culture and is a system fit, but it loses some value because they relinquished assets for a player at a position you can find both value and the team’s fit later in the draft and even up to the college free agent market.
126th Overall – Riley Ridley WR Georgia: (A) When watching draft coverage and looking at some twitter reaction to this pick there were a lot of people critical of this pick. Mainly because of the position he plays and the fact it didn’t appear to be a need. However, this is a home run pick. It’s way over value as he was ranked in many of the experts top 10 at the WR positional rankings. It also is a great scheme fit as he is probably the best and certainly one of the best route runners in the draft. He won’t fool his Quarterback and will be where he needs to be and it will also help the other routes as their all interconnected in this scheme. He’s also an excellent possession receiver with glue hands who will win most 50/50 balls. As he’ll tell you they’re 100% balls if you throw in his direction. Love his confidence and competitive nature. He also has elite body control and body flexibility which helps him to contort to off target throws. He can set up routes with excellent hip sink and head and shoulder fakes along with sharp quick cuts. He’s also a magician along the sidelines which will come in handy during 2 minute drills.
205th Overall – Duke Shelly CB Kansas State: (B) Originally, I wasn’t too crazy about the pick as I admittedly had no knowledge of him. He wasn’t at the combine nor was he on NFL.com’s list of draft pick prospects which is the list I used the most to do all of my prospect research on. But after doing my own research and absorbing all I could from analysts I have come to love this pick. Pro Football Focus had him as their 6th best corner period. Shelly is very fast and athletic with great football character and appears to have great personal character as well. He will fit in to this culture right off. He’s also extremely competitive and loves to tackle in spite of his diminutive size. He’s extremely sticky and makes every receiver he shadows earn their receptions. He has nice ball skills with plenty of PBU’s and picks that should translate to the next level. Let’s not forget he had to cover some of the best receivers in the Big 12 and graded out with the highest pass coverage grade of all eligible CB’s in the conference by PFF. Should be an excellent replacement for Bryce Callahan as a slot corner. However, one of his negatives is his size like Callahan and his fierce physical style of play worries you a little about his durability.
222nd Overall – Kerrith Whyte RB Florida Atlantic: (B) Whyte may have gotten over-drafted a little here but I suspect he had a lot of competition lined up to sign him in the free agent portion of the draft and Pace much like he did for Montgomery ensured he’d be a Bear. Whyte makes the lack of home run ability in Montgomery less glaring as he has plenty of it. The kid has juice and he has very good power for a smaller back. He also has excellent contact balance which helps him get past some arm tackles at his legs through the hole and into the second level which the 522 yards after contact PFF stat will attest to. Once in the second level it’s hold your breath time as he is quick twitched and fast with 32 avoided tackles with relatively low amount of attempts. PFF also has him ranked as their 8th best back. He’s also an excellent pass receiver as he had 100% catcth percentage and 99 career catches. He also brings added value as a kickoff returner.
238th Overall – Stephen Denmark DB Valdosta State: (B) Denmark is very intriguing. He’s a total size/speed player at nearly 6’4″ and 220 pounds. He doesn’t move like one but he sure as hell hits like one. I know evoking a name like this seems foolish but he does remind me of recently retired Seahawk Safety Kam Chancellor. I am in no way predicting the same career path for Denmark but the physical traits line up that way. He’s actually faster running a sub 4.46 40 at his pro day with insane explosion with a 44″ vertical. He is a virtual unknown but several draft analysts I respect including Dane Brugler had him as one of their top sleepers in this draft. After watching as much video on him as I cold he is a fierce hitter and is very sticky. His hips are fluid for such a large DB. He has the speed and length to be an issue covering on the boundaries and can be a factor versus the run. He may be in line for a position switch as I can see him being a Safety who can easily play a hybrid role as a sometimes LB on blitzes and stacking the box versus the run game.
Wrap up: This draft is yet another promising one with explosive athletes with a high competitive nature and good character fitting into the culture. The Bears have shown this is not just lip service as they sign and draft good citizens in society and in the locker room. Pace has also shown he drafts players with plus athleticism to compete with the level of talent in the NFL and the IQ to pickup their various systems. You don’t win executive of the year among your peers by not doing just that. They don’t judge you on drafting good guys but by the results on the field. I think under the coaching staff in place they’ve shown that they can get the most of these guys and I see no reason why this can’t be a very productive and successful draft class. The haul in college free agency is also excellent and something I will get into in great detail in a future piece hopefully right on the heels of this one. Once again pace gave us a lot of storylines and new talent to pay attention to in training camp.